The introduction to this series of On The Road pieces, has sparked Electric Vehicle (EV) questions around the drive, the experience and the cost, so I’ll try to answer as many as possible in this piece – specifically about the Sydney to Melbourne journey, inland on the Hume Highway via Goulburn, Gundagai and Albury-Wodonga.

A few things to clarify first:

  • My new EV is not some top-of-the-range sports car, it’s the cheapest EV currently on the market coming in just under $44 thousand including on-road costs (but thanks for the social media posts saying EVs are “just for the millionaires”)
  • The maximum range is 276km in “Economy” mode (less if you use “Normal” or “Sport” modes) which is lower than other makes and models of EV, hence the price point –more on range and driving later
  • Some charging points are “all-access” and provided free, like many NRMA and RACV ones. Others are provided by EV charging networks like Chargefox, and there is a fee that equates to the speed of charging; Ultra Rapid is about 40c/kWh but others are about 11c/kWh
  • I totally agree that walkable neighbourhoods, bike lanes and public transport infrastructure are important, but it will take years to transition Australia to these “better” communities and in the meantime we need to encourage zero emissions transport as well. As NSW Minister Rob Stokes said last week, “reducing car dependence is just as important as improving the way vehicles are powered.”

Every time I talked with other EV owners charging along the way I heard the same thing; “Oh, I’d never go back”. 

One of the key reasons for my journey – the UN Global Compact Network Australia event Making Global Goals Local Business – was truly inspiring, and conversations ranged from inequality to investment, from recycling to regenerative infrastructure, and from emerging technologies to electric vehicles. Only a few other attendees were EV owners, and it was interesting to find out how people had travelled whether locally (mostly public transport, then car, then walk) or interstate (mostly plane, then train, then car).

As explained in the video, I had four stops along the way from Sydney to Melbourne. Goulburn took 59 minutes to charge ($12.04), Gundagai took 1 hour 8 minutes ($11.20), Barnawartha took 34 minutes ($4.15) and Euroa took 1 hour 3 minutes ($9.73). Which means the total journey of 888km cost me $37.12, or 4 cents per kilometre, or $4.18 per 100km. Chargefox say that “All our ultra-rapid sites are backed by 100 per cent green power – in many cases we also add solar and batteries on site to facilitate charging via solar energy.” So a zero-emissions interstate journey is possible.

Having the aircon on, the stereo loud and the windows down will also reduce your range slightly in different ways.

Which brings me to the other two main issues – ease of charging, and range. Each of the charging stations was easy to use, connected to the car quickly, and clearly displayed the charge under way. It’s even shown “live” in the app on your phone, so you can wander off and see the sites, have a cuppa, or use the bathroom, and still keep track of your EV. I had a hiccup trying to plug in at Gundagai, but I suspect that was my lack of familiarity with the Ultra-Rapid Charger rather than a fault.

It’s a different style of driving. If you know you need to stop every few hours to recharge, you tend to drive refreshed.

Range, however, is the key question. As I said, my EV’s range is at the lower end – 276km is not amazing – but it’s enough to get you safely and securely to Melbourne. You can keep an eye on your range gauge, and on the in-car destination distance display, and know that you’ve got enough at any given time. If you’ve any real worries, you could always find a simple three-pin power outlet to provide a boost, although that would be a slow way of topping up! There were no times on the trip to Melbourne at which I felt genuine “range anxiety” as it was easy to plan ahead. The trip back to Sydney, however, was a different matter – more on that in the next piece.

Three important points to finish on:

Love this point!! 

1. It’s a different style of driving. If you know you need to stop every few hours to recharge, you tend to drive refreshed. I found an amazing cake stall (see photographic evidence) and so while EVie was recharging with solar, I was recharging with pear, walnut and maple cake in the sunshine. I genuinely felt better for more stops, having only ever done that journey before at full tilt, so this was a more enjoyable, relaxing trip. And quiet, of course, because the vehicle noise and acoustic stress is massively reduced.

2. Range relates to how you drive. There’s a visual display of your ‘power draw-down’ – travelling at 95kmh draws down 10 per cent of available power, at 105kmh draws down 20 per cent, and at 115kmh (or so I would imagine) draws down 40 per cent. So if you want to lead-foot your way between cities, you’ll need to recharge more often. And having the aircon on, the stereo loud and the windows down will also reduce your range slightly in different ways. Find your sweet-spot for power management and balance your range and rate.

3. You’ll never go back. That’s the sentence I’ve heard numerous times during the trip so far – from long-term users such as Nicholas Bernhardt from Informed 365 who has driven an EV for over 5 years, to new users such as the lady charging beside me at Goulburn. This was her second week of EV ownership and already she said, hand on heart, that she loved the experience and would never go back to “an old-school car”. Every time I talked with other EV owners charging along the way I heard the same thing; “Oh, I’d never go back”. 

Must be a revolution gathering momentum? Join me next time for the [slightly less easy] Melbourne to Sydney trip.

Robin Mellon is CEO of Better Sydney, Project Manager for the Property Council of Australia’s Modern Slavery Working Group and Supplier Platform, and NSW Program Adviser for Better Building Finance. And now an EV nerd.

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  1. I’m not against saving energy and reduction in emissions, but I think the cost of $37.12 is not quite correct. It does not include the time spent waiting for charge at each stop. A loss of production time. It also does not include the cost of food, etc. at each stop. Yes. There is the value of relaxation and seeing things that might not have been seen on a business trip. But there is still an opportunity cost that has not be included. If we are going to convince ourselves of the benefits, we have to be completely honest. It still think it a benefit, but maybe not as much as suggested.

    1. You could similarly argue if the cost is to be measured in that way (with intangibles), the “costs” of health issues from pollution, or “costs” of road accidents from people who drive for 4+ hours without a break and get drowsy.

      On the lost time, that is something that is less of an issue that some may expect. I’ll preface this by reminding people that in the future – at the point where EVs become mainstream – most EVs will not require a stop every 200 km for 45-60 minutes, but closer to every 300 km for 20-30 minutes. This kind of capability already exists in EVs in the $60-70k mark, but as with other EV capabilities it will eventually be in the lower end ones as well.

      Now consider a typical long trip. You’ll probably find that this is about how often you stop *anyway*. Especially if travelling with kids or dogs! If you’re in a petrol car, such a stop involves pulling into the service station, filling with petrol, standing next to the car as you do, going in to pay, coming back and moving the car to a parking space. *Then* you might go and get food, get coffee, go to the toilet, let the kids run around a park for a bit or take the dog for a quick walk. With EV charging, you go direct to the charger and plug in, then do the other activities at the same time. It doesn’t really add 20 more minutes.

      Similarly on a business trip – you may want to stop and check messages, make phone calls, send some emails. You can do that at the same time as the car is charging. No lost time, as doing this in 3x 20 minute blocks during the day means it’s an hour you don’t have to spend doing it later.

      People who haven’t driven an EV typically don’t think about it this way, but it makes sense once you experience it.

      Also – this example – using public fast chargers – is effectively only used 5-10% of the time for an EV driver, on average. The majority of charging will be done either at home or at a workplace – anywhere the car is parked for extended periods of time – at very cheap rates via a slow charger.

      1. You make some good points, Charles – thanks for contributing – it’s interesting to compare different styles of driving alongside the different vehicles – that time spent recharging the car is seldom ‘wasted’ time as you check emails, make calls, catch up with things, recharge your own batteries (or eat cake, in my case!).

  2. One other comment to make – as a driver of a hybrid car (not as good as a full EV I know) is that I also reckon it makes me a safer driver. I’m so much more aware of draining the battery by fast acceleration that I just cruise along without pumping the equivalent of the gas. Wanting to make the most of the regenerative braking also means I start to slow down sooner than I might have done otherwise.
    Love the updates, Robin, keep up the good work!

    1. Interesting comment, Isabelle – I’d *also* say that the EV is making me a safer driver, as I’m stopping regularly to recharge (myself and the car!) and more aware of how I’m accelerating / cruising / stopping, but I don’t have any hard data to back that up (yet) – just my / your anecdotal evidence!

    2. Interesting comment, James – thanks for contributing – I’ve been giving this some thought. I guess if we’re going to quantify things accurately (and be ‘honest’ about it!) then you’re correct – we should factor in the time waiting. However, to be truly accurate and honest we should also factor in the hours that we need to work to pay for our ‘fuel’ (petrol or renewable energy EV recharge).
      The median hourly earnings in Australia (Aug 2020) was $36/hour, according to ABS (1).
      The average rate of fuel consumption per passenger vehicle in Australia (June 2020) was 11.1 litres/100km, according to ABS (2).
      The average petrol retail price in Australia (week ending 23 May 2020) was $1.45, according to the Australian Institute of Petroleum (3).
      So my EV charge cost me just over one hour in working time ($37.12).
      Assuming an average fuel efficiency and an average petrol price, the petrol for the same journey would have cost me four hours in working time ($142.92).
      Even assuming 25% better fuel efficiency for ‘extra-urban’ driving and higher speeds, it would still come in at three hours of working time.
      And that’s before you’ve factored in the stops that I’d assume you’d make to refresh, not just to refill your tank (unless you actively *want* to drive nine hours straight?).
      Yes, I’m aware there are more fuel-efficient petrol vehicles, but I’m using data on Australian averages – there are also more energy-efficiency EVs, but I’m just using data from my ‘cheapest-on-the-market’ vehicle!
      So I think the opportunity costs work out about the same, even factoring in fuel efficiency rates. Thoughts? Hit me with your data, bro!